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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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TONY'S ONLINE TIPS
for Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Superpowers: A Novel

Superpowers by David J. Schwartz [Three Rivers Press; $14.95] is a first novel from an author who knows his way around super-hero comics. Opening in the months before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and continuing for a few weeks after them, it's the story of five college students who party one night and wake up the next morning with super-powers.

The characters are a sympathetic bunch with the usual and not very remarkable concerns and problems. The powers are standard: super-strength, super-speed, flight, invisibility, and telepathy. Comics fans won't find anything new in the students coming to terms with their powers, deciding to use them to help their fellow man, and discovering the consequences and pitfalls of using the powers and using them without sanction of legal authority. But there are interesting twists on these basics.

Schwartz sets most of the novel in Madison, Wisconsin, not exactly a hotbed of super-villainy. The young heroes are, as far as they know, the first of their kind, and their inexperience and quest for knowledge of their abilities and responsibilities, leads them to, among other sources of information, a comic-book shop. Along the way, they also meet a super-powered soldier who was part of a top-secret team operating during World War II.

The voice of the book is Marcus Hatch, a left-wing journalist with a bent for conspiracies. Several times during the book, he breaks from the narrative to address the readers directly, but - kudos to Schwartz - it's neither disruptive nor jarring. Hatch gives this novel an anchor and an overall context.

The novel meets the events of September 11 head on, and some of its most powerful moments come in the aftermath of the attacks as the heroes must face their own failings and fears. The book gets a bit too obviously conspiratorial in its closing pages, but it remains a satisfying work with moments poignant and profound. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to super-hero afficionados.

Superpowers earns an impressive four Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Question: FIve Book of Blood

The Question: The Five Books of Blood [DC; $19.99] is a hardcover reprinting of the five-issue Crime Bible series by Greg Rucka with artists Tom Mandrake, Jesus Saiz, Matthew Clark, Diego Olmos, and Manuel Garcia. It's a good group, but Mandrake leads the pack by a length or two.

This is another one of those DC projects I wanted to like so much more than I did. Rucka is a terrific writer. Renee Montoya is a terrific character, though I still wish she was partnered with Vic Sage, the original Question. I'm drawn to Montoya's struggle with her personal questions. But...

The whole "Crime Bible" and "crime religion" stuff doesn't work for me. Maybe I like my criminals more down to earth. I know I don't like seeing Montoya played by bad guys as she is in this series, and I know I especially don't like that the book ends on yet another damn cliffhanger. Aren't DC Comics readers getting tired of buying and reading these mini-series that don't end, that just lead into the next thing?

That The Question: The Five Books of Blood gets but two out of five Tonys is my answer to that question.

Tony Tony

******

NEW YEAR NOTES

This year has been designated as the International Year of Reconciliation, and one hopes and prays that augurs well for the administration of President Barack Obama, who today will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. There's much to be done to clean up the mess left by our criminal 43rd President and his equally criminal associates, but I believe Obama is the man to lead us into a brighter tomorrow.

Via Wikipedia, here's some 2009 movie trivia...

The various surveillance cameras in the 2008 film Eagle Eye read January 26, 2009.

Cloverfield takes place on May 22. I'd stay out of New York City that day.

Finally, the events that trigger the story in 2007's I Am Legend begin on December 10, 2009.

I get a kick out of this kind of stuff, so expect updates as they come my way.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 01/19/2009 | 01/20/2009 | 01/21/2009 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

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THE "TONY" SCALE

Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

Tony
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TonyTony
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

TonyTonyTony
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

TonyTonyTonyTony
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

TonyTonyTonyTonyTony
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.



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